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U.S. plans new crackdown on deadbeat parents


WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration announced new measures yesterday to crack down further on parents who owe large amounts of child support, saying it will seek criminal prosecutions in addition to the money owed.

The administration said it would establish four new task forces, expanding coverage to 17 states. They will be established in Baltimore; Sacramento, Calif.; New York and Dallas, and will be based on a model project in Columbus, Ohio, launched last year.

The Baltimore task force office will cover Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Justice Department prosecutors and investigators will be assigned to work with state child support and local law officials to pursue those delinquent parents who owe the largest sums.

"Children denied financial assistance are among our most vulnerable citizens," Attorney General Janet Reno said in a statement, noting that such children are more likely to drop out of school, engage in violence and experience health problems and teen-age pregnancy.

Health and Human Services officials also announced record collections of delinquent support payments in 1998.

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala said $14.4 billion was recovered through a combination of federal and state collection efforts, an increase of 7 percent from 1997's $13.4 billion. The figure represents an 80 percent rise over 1992.

An additional $1.1 billion was recovered in 1998 from delinquent parents by deducting the money from federal income tax refunds for the 1997 tax year, according to HHS. Those funds affected nearly 1.3 million families, and represent a 3 percent increase from the previous year and a 70 percent gain since 1992.

The Clinton administration has proposed numerous initiatives in recent years to strengthen child support collection efforts. In 1996, it won congressional approval of legislation establishing new penalties for overdue payments, including revocation of driver's licenses.

The steps announced yesterday represent an expansion of that effort.

Pub Date: 1/01/99

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